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Tag: patent

CORONAVIRUS: Patent Frequently Asked Questions

Lost Dutchman State Park during Coronavirus Outbreak

UPDATE: APRIL 28: The USPTO has updated its program which changes some of the information below regarding dates. Read more here.

The Patent Office is allowing certain filing and fee deadlines to be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic in the US.  Below are common questions about this change:

Question 1: Coronavirus has prevented me from meeting my deadline. What can I do?

The US Patent and Trademark Office has instituted a 30-day extension of time for some patent deadlines. You may be able to benefit.

Question 2: How do I take advantage of the 30-day extension of time?

If an eligible document or fee is due between March 27, 2020, and April 30, 2020, the filing will be considered timely when made within 30 days of the original due date. However, to qualify, the filing must be accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Only certain situations will qualify as delays due to the outbreak. More information is available at the official  Notice of Waiver of Patent-Related Timing Deadlines under CARES.

Question 3: Are there any requirements about how the statement has to be made or presented?

The statement does not have to be verified or submitted in the form of an affidavit or declaration. It must, of course, be truthful, and it is recommended that you keep detailed internal records should there later be a question as to the nature of the delay.

Also, rather than including the statement within a normal filing, it is recommended that the statement be included in a separate paper. While the statement can be included in the paper lodged with the Patent Office, it may be initially missed by the Office and delays could result before it is accepted. If included within a filing, it should be made in a conspicuous manner.

Question 4: What qualifies as “a delay due to the outbreak?”

At this time, it is not clear exactly which situations will qualify as being due to the outbreak.
The applicant, agent, owner, petitioner, inventor, or attorney must be personally affected by the outbreak, so being sick will certainly qualify. However, it is less certain whether they actually have to be sick themselves. The rule identifies that one must be affected by the outbreak, not necessarily the disease. So it is possible that having to stay home to take care of a kid whose school was closed could be a qualifying reason (though it should be noted that the Office has not specifically identified this as qualifying reason). If an office closure, cash flow interruption, travel delays, or inaccessibility of files or other materials causes the delay, this will also qualify. The new rule further states that “similar circumstances” to the above will qualify if they materially interfered with the on-time filing or payment. While it does not appear that the Office requires details regarding how the outbreak delayed the filing, it may be a good idea to provide some basic information about the delay

Question 5: When does an extension start??

Day 1 of the 30-day extension of time is the first day after the original due date, in other words, the first day after the original due date.

Question 6: What if the 30-day extension of time ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday?

If the 30-day extension of time ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, the extended deadline falls on the next regular business day.

Question 8: Are there any fees associated with extension?

No. The extension does not cost anything. The only fees that may be due are those associated with the filing or fee payment which is being extended.

Question 9: What appeal-related filings are eligible for a 30-day extension of time?

The following appeal-related filings are eligible for a 30-day extension of time:

  • notice of appeal
  • appeal brief
  • reply brief
  • appeal forwarding fee
  • request for an oral hearing before the PTAB
  • response to a substitute examiner’s answer
  • amendment in connection with a new ground of rejection by the PTAB
  • request for rehearing of a PTAB appeal decision

Question 10: Are all entities entitled to all CARES Act extensions?

No. Certain forms of relief are limited to small and micro entities.

Question 11: Which filing and fee extensions are only available to small and micro entities?

  • replies to an Office notice issued during pre-examination processing, e.g.:
  • reply to a notice of omitted items
  • reply to a notice to file corrected application papers
  • reply to a notice of incomplete application
  • reply to a notice to comply with nucleotide sequences requirements
  • reply to a notice to file missing parts of application (including, without limitation, the payment of the filing fees)
  • reply to a notification of missing requirements
  • a maintenance fee payment

Question 12: What PTAB filings are eligible for a 30-day extension of time?

  • request for rehearing of a PTAB decision in an AIA trial or interference proceeding
  • petition to the Chief Judge
  • patent owner preliminary response in a trial proceeding, or any related responsive filing

In the event that the USPTO extends a deadline for a patent owner preliminary response or any related filings, the PTAB may also extend the deadlines provided in 35 U.S.C. §§ 314(b) and 324(c).

For all other situations where the COVID-19 outbreak has prevented or interfered with a filing before the Board, a request for an extension of time can be made by contacting the PTAB.

Question 13: What PTAB filings are not eligible for an extension of time?

At this time, PTAB is not extending any statutory deadlines for filing an AIA petition under either 35 U.S.C. §§ 315(b) or 321(c).

Question 14: Has the Patent and Trademark Office provided any other relief in view of the COVID-19 outbreak?

Yes. The USPTO has waived the fee for petitions to revive applications that became abandoned because applicants could not meet the deadline for responding to an Office communication due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Office has also waived the requirements for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline and certain payments by credit card.

Question 15: Will the USPTO extend the CARES Act relief beyond April 30?

At the time of this writing, the Patent and Trademark Office has not announced further extensions. However, I believe another 30-day extension is highly likely to be granted should the virus continue to keep the economy depressed for a few more weeks.

Question 16: If I have a question about CARES Act extensions, whom do I contact?

The USPTO has a help email dedicated to COVID, but I have found that emails sent to general email addresses at the USPTO never get returned. You can also contact the Office of Patent Legal Administration at 571-272-7704 (or 571-272-7703 for reexamination), or contact Arizona patent attorney Tom Galvani at 602-281-6481.



CORONAVIRUS: US Patent and Trademark Office Response

Quail eggs in our backyard

UPDATE: APRIL 28: The USPTO has updated its program which changes some of the information below regarding dates. Read more here.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has made extensions available to filing, response, and fee deadlines in certain patent and trademark matters. The Office recognizes that the outbreak, and the economy impact thereof, have made it difficult or impossible for some entities to meet their deadlines. Applicants have been affected. Patent and trademark owners have been affected. Law firms and legal personnel have been affected. The Office is allowing some deadlines to be extended for 30 days under certain circumstances.

In all cases, a deadline can be extended only if the outbreak materially prevented or interfered with an on-time trademark filing, response, or fee payment. “Materially prevented” or “materially interfering” includes situations such as office closures, cash flow interruptions, lack of access to files or other materials, travel delays, personal or family illness, or other similar circumstances. Further, only certain people can claim the extension: the person affected by the outbreak must be a practitioner, applicant, registrant, or other person associated with the filing or fee.  Lastly, only deadline falling within certain dates will qualify.

If you request an extension, you need to do so explicitly and conspicuously; if the request is hidden, it will probably be delayed or may even

be missed completely. This will require further follow-up by you with the Patent and Trademark Office to make sure it gets processed – just extra work from you during a time when you don’t need more on your plate, if you’re being truthful that the outbreak has affected you. And of course, you must be truthful when making the statement. It is a good idea to at least internally and carefully document the circumstances that are preventing the filing from being made on time, and then to keep those detailed records in case a question about their veracity ever arises. I predict that in five to ten years, some patents and trademarks could be invalidated in litigation because a COVID-19 extension was taken but shouldn’t have, or because the legitimacy of the conditions around the delay could not be shown.

An extended deadline window starts the day after the original deadline. That is day 1. Day 30 – the end of the window – is 30 business days afterward, so long as day 30 is not a weekend or federal holiday. If it is, then the extended deadline falls to the next regular business day.

I’m publishing more information about the US Patent and Trademark Office’s response to coronavirus this week. In the meantime, you can contact patent and trademark attorney Tom Galvani at 602-281-6481.  During the pandemic, Tom is working remotely and will likely return your call from a 435 number.  Videoconferencing is also available.



US Patent Application Filings Under the Paris Convention

A US patent application may be filed on a number of bases. Most applicants think of directly filing an original, non-provisional patent application in the US. However, roughly half of the patent applications actually are filed by non-US entities and have foreign priority claims. A foreign priority claim allows a later-filed application to adopt the filing date of an earlier-filed application, which can be valuable during examination of the application. A foreign priority claim is proper when the US application is filed under the Paris Convention or as a national phase entry under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

When an applicant files a US application with a foreign priority claim, a copy of the foreign priority application must be submitted to the US Patent Office. The copy must be a certified copy, which means it has to be reviewed and stamped by the foreign patent office. Foreign priority documents do not need to be provided at the time of the filing, but they do need to be provided. So while timing is not of the essence, compliance is important.

There are two mechanisms for providing the priority documents. The first mechanism is simply filing and submitting the certified document with the US Patent Office. There are fees involved with obtaining a certified priority document, and it takes time to request the document, wait for it to arrive, and then ship it to the office.

The second mechanism uses the Priority Document Exchange program. Some patent offices around the world have subscribed to the PDX program, and if the earlier-filed application was filed in one of the countries, the applicant can request that the office of earlier filing electronically transmit the earlier-filed application to the office of later filing. Provided that foreign filing license and other requirements are complied with at the earlier office, that office will transmit the application. There is no governmental fee for such a request, and it can save considerable time and administrative work.



Supreme Court Sanctions Patent Attorney

Previously, I have described how not to write a claim in a patent application. Now, the Supreme Court has let us all know how not to write a Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Such a petition is a necessary part of having a case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Unlike the first level of appellate courts, to which any party can appeal, only some appeals are accepted by the Supreme Court to be heard. This is a necessary mechanism: thousands of trial courts funnel appellate work to a handful of appeals courts, and many of those cases are requested to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. However, the Court has only nine justices and can hear only so many cases a year. Thus, the Court picks and chooses which arguments it will hear, and refuses to hear other cases by denying their petitions for writ of certiorari. It would thus seem obvious, then, that a petition would be written clearly to convey the depth and importance of the question presented in the case.

Well, apparently not always. The Court recently denied a petition in a patent case because the petition was so lacking. The question presented in the petition “focused” on a developing line of precedent in the Supreme Court on subject matter eligibility (what types of inventions can be patented). The Court was not impressed with the question, nor should you be. The petition was long, oddly formatted, asked at the outset:Patent Supreme CourtI can’t make too much sense of it, and neither could the Court. It is now requiring that the attorney explain why he shouldn’t be sanctioned for submitting a petition in this fashion.

 



Patent Document Kind Codes

Each patent is published with a patent number upon issuance.  The patent number is frequently followed with a kind code, which conveys information about the patent or its prosecution history.  Other patent documents include kind codes as well.  In 2001, the USPTO began including kind codes that aligned with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s standards.
patent kind code
The US uses many kind codes to designate different information on a patent document.  The list below shows a few of the more frequently-used codes.

  • A1 – Patent Application Publication
  • A2 – Republished Patent Application Publication
  • B1 – Patent (having no pre-grant publication)
  • B2 – Patent (having a pre-grant publication)
  • C1, C2, C3… – Reexamination Certificate
  • E – Reissue Patent
  • P1, P2, P3 – Plant Patent
  • P4, P – Plant Patent Application Publication
  • S – Design Patent

As you can see, the letter indicates the type or substance of the document, and the trailing number, if any, informs the history.  A 1 frequently indicates that this publication is the first publication in the prosecution history, while a 2 means that at some previous point, the application was published.  Now what drives me crazy about this list is that a design patent is identified with an “S.”  I imagine this a result of a translation of the word “design” somewhere at WIPO, but it does seem that a design patent should carry a “D” rather than an “S.”  But, then again, design patents are unique in that the patent number carries a leading “D.”  Which makes inclusion of the S a bit redundant.



Obviousness Standards under Joint Inventorship

How is obviousness of a patent claim considered when several individuals contribute to the claimed subject matter?  Much analysis in patent law focuses on a person having ordinary skill in the art, or a “PHOSITA.”  The PHOSITA is the touchstone for many patentability questions, such as whether an invention is obvious in light of prior art.  US patent law has, to my knowledge, always constructed PHOSITA considerations around a single person.

Dennis Crouch writes in his latest Patently-O article that a UK court has just applied a “THOSITA” analysis to obviousness – would the claimed invention be obvious from the standpoint of a “skilled team?”  This change raises the question in the US whether the PHOSITA analysis applies equally to a team as it does to a person, or whether a new framework for team-invented patent material is needed.  After all, the number of patents invented by teams of people, rather than sole inventors, is steadily rising.  Joint inventorship is very common, especially in the corporate assignee context.

If a THOSITA standard were adopted, what would its effect be on obviousness?  It seems that it would inevitably raise the obviousness threshold on subject matter contributed to by more than one person beyond that which is applied to single inventor subject matter. It may not even be necessary, though.  Crouch posits that US patent law already implicitly includes team-based inventive activity by its inclusive construct of the word “person.”  Example: 17 USC 102 states that “A person shall be entitled to a patent unless…” – teams  of people are granted patents, and so “person” is meant to include “team.”



Inventor’s Eye Features Prosthetic Patents

Inventor’s Eye, the Patent Office’s monthly online publication, features the intersection of technology and sport, a nexus of particular interest to me.  It frames the conversation in light of the recently-completed London Olympic and Paralympic Games, in both of which South African runner Oscar Pistorius was prominent.  The articles makes interesting points regarding the role of adaptive technology in removing the effects of disability and highlighting the beauty of motion.  Read more here.



Patentable Subject Matter – Mayo v. Prometheus

An invention must be of the appropriate subject matter to be eligible for a patent.  Appropriate subject matter includes, by statutory definition, a machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or process.  For most inventions, the determination regarding whether the invention is patent eligible is generally an easy one.  However, in some areas of technology, this questions becomes extremely difficult.

The Supreme Court is currently tackling a case whose core issue is the patentability of a process of applying a drug containing an active ingredient and subsequently measuring that ingredient’s levels in the patient.  Patentable subject matter is an issue the Supreme Court does not often take up, one reason simply being that it is a difficult issue.  Oral argument was yesterday, and Justice Breyer, at least, revealed some frustration around the issue (via Patently-O):

JUSTICE BREYER: Suppose I discover that if … someone takes aspirin … for a headache and, you know, I see an amazing thing: if you look at a person’s little finger, and you notice the color [indicates that] you need a little more, unless it’s a different color, you need a little less. Now, I’ve discovered a law of nature and I may have spent millions on that. And I can’t patent that law of nature, but I say: I didn’t; I said apply it. I said: Look at his little finger.

MR. SHAPIRO: Sure.

JUSTICE BREYER: Okay? Is that a good patent or isn’t it?

MR. SHAPIRO: No … Well, because you — you’ve added to a law of nature [to] just a simple observation of the man’s little finger.